Vanessa Carlton walked "A Thousand Miles" into the public's hearts with her Be Not Nobody album selling 2 million copies worldwide. Her fourth album, Rabbits on the Run, drops at the end of the month as she drops into the Ravinia the same week.
Windy City Times: Hello, Vanessa. Where in the world are you right now?
Vanessa Carlton: I am in Santa Ana, Calif. I found a creek that I have just run along that is really quite lovely. At the same time I thought there might be some kind of scary homeless man that might drag me into the woods but I am enjoying it. It's weird.
Windy City Times: Oh, nobe careful. Do you live in California now?
Vanessa Carlton: No, I just flew in from New York. I am here doing a week of shows.
Windy City Times: You have a new song called "Dear California," where you are saying goodbye to California.
Vanessa Carlton: Yes, every time I am at LAX or SFO it is just washing over me how much I love it. I come back here frequently. I landed in SFO last night and thought of my own song.
Windy City Times: You have your song "San Francisco" too, so there's a big connection with California.
Vanessa Carlton: Yes, that's right. I love it.
Windy City Times: I saw you at the Park West in Chicago years ago.
Vanessa Carlton: Oh, yeah; I remember that venue.
Windy City Times: Your record, Harmonium, had just come out and you told stories with each of your songs.
Vanessa Carlton: God, I must have been such a nerd. I am not quite as chatty as I used to be. I have a whole new approach now.
Windy City Times: After seeing the new video for "Carousel" your outfit reminded me of Stevie Nicks a little.
Vanessa Carlton: Well, part of it was a little ode to Stevie and a lot of it was channeling classic female songwriters from the '70s that I feel like their ecstatic comes in every now and then. But I love the video so much; it's so clean, beautiful and natural. I really worked closely with my friend Tracy Moulton who is an amazing costume designer. I wound up wearing a $10 vintage kimono thing that we just turned into a dress for a stunning new design like that white amazing dress. It is about channeling something that is very natural and ethereal.
Windy City Times: You have toured with Stevie in the past and she has given you some amazing compliments, referring to you as "one of the great ones."
Vanessa Carlton: I am lucky to have her in my lifenot just as an artistic totem, but to be able to call her a friend. She is a really good friend.
Windy City Times: On the new album Rabbits on the Run you used a children's choir. Where did you find them?
Vanessa Carlton: I found them through my cousin, actually. I was staying with my cousin in London still trying to figure out how I was going to do this record. She was in the choir. The choir director, Rachel Santesso, is insanely talented. She just did a project with Faris Badwan from The Horrors' called "Cat's Eyes." I introduced them to Steve Osbourne, who produced their record and my record. She is a classically trained opera singer who started this choir called the Capitol Children's Choir. I was totally bewitched by the track record of the Langley School Choir from the '70s.
I highly recommend you YouTubing them if you have time. They do covers of David Bowie, Beatles, and Pink Floyd songs. There is something so cathartic about it when you hear those songs sung by a bunch of kids in a gymnasium. I knew that was a very important element to record that I wanted to make. We recorded it at Abbey Road.
Windy City Times: That is iconic. You used the drummer for My Morning Jacket also for this record?
Vanessa Carlton: Yep.
Windy City Times: With switching music labels, you did this one yourself in many ways, correct?
Vanessa Carlton: I self-funded this record. I hooked up with Razor & Tie right before it was mastered.
Windy City Times: You came out as bisexual at Nashville's Gay Pride. What has the reaction been to that?
Vanessa Carlton: I don't really know. I guess the one thing I would say about it is that I forgot that I was speaking not just to kids in front of me at the festival. I don't mind. It was just surprising.
Windy City Times: It can be a very private thing that you put out there. Then you sang "Who's to Say," which is one of my favorite songs.
Vanessa Carlton: I will play that song when I come out there for sure.
Windy City Times: Have you been to the Ravinia before?
Vanessa Carlton: I haven't.
Windy City Times: People bring picnic items, wine and cheese…
Vanessa Carlton: I love that. That is the way to enjoy music.
Windy City Times: So you will play "A Thousand Miles" and all of the past songs?
Vanessa Carlton: It is a mixture. The Rabbits on the Run record is not like any other record I have done before because the approach was so different and so simple. If I could have gone back and made a record in 1972 this is how I would do it. It has made me reapproach all of my old material in a much more organic fashion as well. If I do an older song I reinvent it. It actually feels more honest.
Windy City Times: You were probably able to have more creative control on this album than the others.
Vanessa Carlton: This was the most collaborative record. The team of artists that I got to work with is unbelievable to me after such a pop past in a waynot that it's dirty, but it didn't really touch me. These songs that I was writing really connected to Steve and Patrick. Working in that setting at Real World Studios was like working in another time and space. I have never been so immersed in making something so honest and so aware of the aesthetic and protecting it, also evolving it at the same time. It feels different. Maybe it's turning 30, I don't know.
I hate to say this because I don't want to undermine my other work. I still connect with my songs from the past but in terms of production and how to bring it to life on a tape, this feels like my first record. It feels like it is all encompassing of what I really mean. I feel like I can go to other places from here.
Vanessa opens for Five For Fighting at Ravinia Pavilion, 200 Ravinia Road, Highland Park, on Friday, July 22. Come rain or shine, check out www.ravinia.org for tickets and information. For more on Vanessa, visit www.vanessacarlton.com .